WASHINGTON - Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has unveiled an accelerated plan for developing standards to transform the U.S. electric power distribution system into a secure and more efficient smart grid.

Produced by the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the approximately 90-page document identifies about 80 initial standards that will enable the vast number of interconnected devices and systems that will make up the nationwide smart grid to communicate and work with each other. These standards will support interoperability of all the various pieces of the system - ranging from large utility companies down to individual homes and devices. The report also lists a set of 14 “priority action plans” that address the most important gaps in the initial standard set.

“To use an analogy from the construction world, this report is like a designer’s first detailed drawing of a complex structure,” said Locke in prepared remarks. “It presents a high-level conceptual model to ensure that everyone is on the same page before moving forward to develop more detailed, formal smart grid architectures. This high-level model is critical to help plan where to go next.”

The draft has been posted for public review and comment. According to George Arnold, NIST’s national coordinator for smart grid interoperability, finalizing the standards will ensure that the grid transformation goes both smoothly and rapidly. “Because of the urgent need to remake the grid into a modern power distribution system, we have set a timetable that is much swifter than usual for establishing these standards,” said Arnold. “But at the same time, we also want to be certain that the initial standards we establish will hold up in the future so that investments in the smart grid will not become prematurely obsolete.”

The draft report, entitled NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 1.0, incorporates input from more than 1,500 industry, government, and other stakeholders who have participated in the NIST framework development process.

The draft includes:

• A basic set of standards for interoperability and security, identifying roughly 80 specific standards and specifications to support the smart grid;

• The 14 “priority action plans” that describe what is being done immediately to fill important gaps where additional or revised standards are needed. These outline everything from home energy management systems to distributed intelligence aimed at keeping the grid from developing problems before they arise. Each plan identifies standards organizations responsible for addressing them, a recommended approach, and aggressive timelines to develop solutions to these needs; and

• A summary of a separate NIST cyber security strategy, which aims to protect the smart grid against the modern threat of cyber attack.

Following the public review and comment period, NIST will finalize the Framework document, which is the culmination of the first phase of its three-phase approach to develop standards. Phase 2 will establish a private-public partnership and forum - a Smart Grid Interoperability Panel - to drive longer-term progress. Phase 3 will develop and implement a framework for testing and certification of how standards are implemented in smart grid devices, systems, and processes. NIST is consulting with industry, government, and other stakeholders to develop a plan for a testing and certification framework by the end of 2009 and take steps toward implementation in 2010.

The NIST’s smart grid draft report is available at www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/smartgrid_interoperability.pdf.

Publication date:10/12/2009